ESS Start Up at #EDGE11

It seems like only months ago I attended the last Scottish EDGE Final, and in a sense, it was! Each round of this bi-annual funding competition comes around so fast that I hardly have time to excited about its return, yet I do.

Last week I attended #EDGE11, which as the name suggests, was Scottish EDGE’s 11th funding round. As usual, Scotland’s vibrant start-up community had come out in force to support the competition’s latest batch of impressive finalists.

Those of us who arrived for the first batch of pitches were rewarded for our early rise with a rare ‘in conversation’ segment featuring Sir Tom Hunter and Deputy First Minister John Swinney – both of whom agreed a that the sums of money they have given to Scottish EDGE is some of the most impactful they have ever allocated.

Host Mike Stevenson | Photo Credit: Sandy Young Photography

Our host for the day, Mike Stevenson of Thinktastic, did a fantastic job of guiding us through the event’s packed schedule with anecdotes of past winners and tidbits relating to Scotland’s Start-up scene.

The tone of the day was set early, with the first pitcher, Diane Teo of T30 Fitness, later being announced as a £50,000 award winner at the evening award ceremony.

Whilst the final as whole saw a high standard of pitching, one that seemed to strike a chord with most, if not all, of the audience was Anna Devvitt’s of Direct Devvitt – a business which facilitates SQA accredited comedy and confidence courses throughout the UK. Anna was later presented with the first ever Creative EDGE award, a special award introduced this round for Creative Sector businesses.

Anna Devitt | Photo Credit: Scottish EDGE

The award show itself held a few key highlights, beginning with the debut of Scottish EDGE’s user-generated footage campaign video in collaboration with 29 Studios, The Cutting EDGE, which captured the applicants’ journeys throughout the round, to a mesmerising keynote by David Duke of Street Soccer Scotland.

David’s detailing of his journey from homelessness to the creation of the now hugely impactful social enterprise, Street Soccer Scotland, was every bit humbling as it was inspirational.

David Duke | Photo Credit: Sandy Young Photography

David Shearer, Scottish EDGE Chairman, was on hand to deliver the ever-impressive Scottish EDGE impact data – now clocking in at 1,204 jobs created, £79.78m in addition turnover and £87.87m in additional investment.

The applications for Round 12 open online on 31st January 2018 and I can’t wait to see the next batch of finalists take to the #EDGE12 stage, which I hope will include some of the brilliant finalists who missed out on a winning spot this time, because as Scottish EDGE CEO Evelyn McDonald explained, over 50% of EDGE winners to date were awarded funding on their second, third, or fourth attempt.

Craig Jackson | Director

What our REC Membership Means

We’re members of the REC, the Recruitment & Employment Confederation. But what does that mean for our clients?

One of our founding and most valued principles at ESS is our unwavering requirement that the remarkable standard of our candidates is matched only by the quality of the positions we fill. Our REC Membership supports us in this effort, enabling ESS to observe the highest principles of ethics, equity, integrity, professional conduct and fair practice in dealing with others.

When we first joined the REC 2 years ago, we were obligated to sign up to the REC Code, which requires basic statutory compliance as well as higher ethical principles. REC membership therefore is more than an accolade, it is an obligation to keep abreast of best practice within our industry and biennial testing ensures that we consistently meet that obligation to a high standard.

The REC also publish valuable research and insights and have an important role to play in improving standards within the industry. As members, we are actively contributing to the betterment of the industry and advocate the need for change at government level. The REC aims to build the best job market in the world and we’re proud to be supporting a climate conducive to this.

Should I always use an REC Member recruitment firm? 

We are not at the stage yet where membership of a trade association is compulsory within the industry, nor would it be fair to sully the name of those who have chosen not to seek REC membership. Not all consultants are created equally, however, and an experience with one agency is not necessarily reflective of others. REC membership requires that all who carry the title are bound by a code of strict standards of practice, which should offer peace of mind to businesses wishing to enlist the services of a recruitment specialist.

Our membership demonstrates our commitment but at ESS it is more than just membership. We understand that lives are changed by employment and the right employees change businesses for the better. We’re committed to making a real difference to the candidates and businesses we work with.

ESS Holdings as a Living Wage Employer

ESS Holdings is pleased to announce its accreditation as a Living Wage employer by The Living Wage Foundation for a second year.

Our Living Wage commitment sees all ESS employees, whether permanent or third-party contractors, receive a minimum hourly wage of £8.45 – significantly higher than the national minimum wage of £6.95 and the new minimum wage premium for over 25s of £7.20 per hour introduced in April of this year.

The Living Wage is an hourly rate set independently and updated annually. It is calculated according to the basic cost of living using the ‘Minimum Income Standard’ for the UK. Decisions about what to include in this standard are set by the public; it is a social consensus about what people need to make ends meet.

A survey by ECA International predicts that an increase in salaries in the UK by an average of 2.9% will result in the highest wage growth since the 2008 financial crisis. However, despite these figures, rapidly escalating inflation will have a huge impact earnings in real terms. Food and petrol costs are currently pushing the rise, but increases in electricity and clothing are expected to drive the figures up further.

Acknowledging the potential socio-economic impact of these changes on our employees allows us to put measures in place that address holistic needs across our workforce. It is our belief that far from being a necessary drain resources, being a Living Wage employer is an effective measure in ensuring that our workforce is dedicated internally and safe externally.

ESS Holdings Director, Bruce Hydes commented: “Our ethos is to Inspire, Challenge and Innovate – and this starts with our people. We want to attract and retain the best talent and Living Wage accreditation helps us achieve this.

“For us, Employer Branding is not something that the marketing or HR departments consider in isolation, it’s an area that occupies time at board level. It is really important for us that our staff are paid fairly and proportionally, and that working with us provides security.”

Find out more about the Living Wage Foundation and campaign to stop low pay at

Ever Wonder How to Make the Leap from Student to Entrepreneur?

Last Thursday I was delighted to representing ESS at the Converge Challenge Awards dinner 2017 (#CC17Awards) and have the opportunity to meet with some of Scotland’s most promising young entrepreneurs. The event was hosted in the Glasgow Science Centre and is a jewel in the crown of Scotland’s start-up scene. Thanks again to Linc Scotland for the invite!

Converge Challenge supports a variety of ideas and businesses at different stages in their lifecycle where it be a student with an idea in the Kickstart category, a social enterprise, or a company ready to make its first steps into the commercial world with a bit of help in the Main Converge Challenge. It is a very exciting awards dinner to be at with some fantastic ideas!

We were lucky enough to have the Rt Hon Nicola Sturgeon MSP, First Minister of Scotland, make a keynote speech, where she showcased the definition of the Converge Challenge very succinctly – that we in Scotland are trying to “create innovation, not just be a consumer of it”. This is the core of many of the competitions that we support here at ESS and we are proud to be as supportive to this ecosystem as possible.

There were fantastic talks form several others speakers including Bob Keiller CBE, Professor Sally Mapstone, and David Sibbald OBE. Bob Keiller kindly reminded us all to “Keep your eye on the prize and feet firmly on the ground” which I know can be hard with a prize fund of over £170,000 available across all three categories with Novosound picking up a total of £78,500.

Well done to all the winners and runners-up Novosound, ClinspecDX, Staels Design, Power Enable Solutions, Adelie Health, Web Based Physiotherapy, Forth Valley Rebound Therapy Service CIC, Headspace Design and Birth Mirror.

The key takeaways from the Converge Challenge 2017 Awards were;

  • Entrepreneurial ideas come in many different forms so don’t be afraid to get your idea out there, as Scotland is listening and supporting
  • That the start-up is thriving and growing with over 700 applications from 17 Scottish universities and research institutes over the past 6 years
  • Female participation in the competition is up 43%
  • Next year Converge Challenge will be supporting the Year of Young People 2018 so if you know any young entrepreneurs with heads full of ideas get them to get in touch with Converge Challenge.
    We’re already looking forward to finding out which future innovators are uncovered at the #CC18Awards!

    Ewan Robinson | Resourcing Account Manager

Startup Grind Hosts Fraser Lusty

Fast becoming one of my monthly highlights, I last week attended my second Startup Grind event. Festival fever had fully engulfed the City and not even CodeBase, Startup Grind’s usual haunt, was immune – playing host to a VR theatre experience. This meant a change of scenery for this month’s Grind – the Kingsford Business Club, set in a classic yet modern business center and a very worthy replacement venue.

Having been impressed by my first Startup Grind, I was pleased to find the same communal vibe when I arrived. This monthly cyclic networking event has codified its values, going to great lengths to promote the transfer of business knowledge, evident both in the impressive entrepreneurs I had the pleasure of chatting with over some drinks and the event’s key speaker, who this month was Fraser Lusty, Director of Equity Gap.

Fraser talked us through his fascinating career in finance, from his early banking days in the 80s when it was a simple affair to the turmoil of the property crash in 2008, which ultimately led him down the Angel Syndicate route. He explained that with more and more companies looking to alternative sources in funding in Scotland, the angel space is now more buoyant in Scotland than elsewhere.

From 15 original founders in 2010, Equity Gap has grown to more than 100 members who have completed more than 50 rounds of funding. Co-investing alongside other syndicates and the Scottish Investment Bank – the investment arm of Scottish Enterprise – Equity Gap has leveraged a total of nearly £20 million to date.

What I found most admirable, however, was the diverse nature of the companies that Fraser works with – with Equity Gap being open to application from any early-stage Scottish based company past the point of R&D. Coupled with Fraser’s particular interest in the life sciences, software and mobile industries, this suggests a genuine desire to help Scotland secure its place as a global leader in the fast scaling start-up scene.

As always, I left this Startup Grind event feeling thoroughly inspired and I’m already looking forward to next month’s – featuring Chairman and Investor, George Elliot. Keep an eye on our Twitter page for details on how you can win a complimentary ticket and be our guest.

Book your ticket for next month’s event HERE

An Evening with PureLifi at Startup Grind

With Scotland fast becoming a center of excellence for entrepreneurship, it can be difficult for a start up focused event to stand out from the many taking place daily throughout the Country. Yet, I felt genuinely excited to be attending my first Startup Grind event on behalf of ESS last week. Everything about this event series, from its branding to the use of the word ‘grind’ in its name suggests a barebones, no holds barred approach to preparing entrepreneurs for the road ahead – with the passion, gusto and enthusiasm so reflective of Scotland’s vibrant startup community.

This month’s guest speaker was Mostafa Afgani, CTO and Co-Founder of PureLifi, who expertly occupied the hot seat as our host, Lisa Thomson, guided him though a brilliant question and answer session. What really struck me about Mostafa’s talk was its honest and unscripted nature – just an intimate and authentic interview detailing the bumps in the road to success and how to overcome them.

Hearing Mostafa speak of his movement from academia to the commercial business world was fascinating – taking cutting-edge technology developed within a university laboratory and transforming it into a consumer product. The product that PureLifi have developed allows the transfer of data across light as opposed to “traditional Wifi”. This offers huge benefits such as improved security and the ability to have a high-speed connection in places otherwise impossible (one example of this would be underwater in a submarine!).

Mostafa was also on hand to provide some help and advice to budding entrepreneurs:

  • Fear: Don’t be afraid to take the plunge, what you get from the experience is incomparable
  • Team: Pick the right people and build a great team, it’s not all about the CV. You don’t know everything so bring on people that know more that you. Measure new recruits against the culture in the team
  • Failure: Don’t be afraid of failure, any start-up company will have to go through multiple iterations before you get it to where you want it to be.

By encouraging Mostafa to talk about those bumps in the road, Startup Grind created a true sense of community and reflected an unwavering commitment to educating entrepreneurs about the challenges they will face on their journey and the ways they can be overcome.

Stuart Whiting
Resourcing Consultant

EES Start up at Scottish EDGE 10

Last week, I once again attended one of my favourite events on the Scottish entrepreneurial event calendar, the Scottish EDGE final. I arrived early to set-up my stand in the exhibitor atrium and the place was already buzzing – a mix of excitement and nervous energy from those getting ready to pitch their business plans to the Round 10 judging panel.

We were welcomed to the event by our host, Mel Sherwood, who did a fantastic job on her first outing as EDGE compere. The tone of the day was set early, with the first batch of pitchers being of such a high standard that three of the five were later announced as winners at the evening award ceremony, including Turtle Pack, who together with Staels Design, was awarded the maximum amount possible of 100k.

The panel for this round was chaired by Brian McBride, Chairman of ASOS, with James Watt of BrewDog assuming the Simon Cowell role, putting the pitchers through their paces with razor sharp questioning that left many a little scarred, but not defeated. With 240 applications having been received, the panel had their work cut-out choosing the winners from the 20 that had made it through to the final. Nevertheless, twelve winners were chosen and were collectively awarded over £700k in funding, bringing the total for this round to £1.24 million when added to the sum already awarded in the Young EDGE, Wild Card EDGE and Higgs EDGE Categories.

This was my second EDGE outing as a member of one of its supporting partner organizations and as with my last visit, the sense of comradery and common goal of supporting Scotland’s growth as a global player in entrepreneurship was evident. Seeing the finalists genuinely rooting for their competitors during the winner announcements at the award ceremony certainly reinforced this ethos. Quite fitting then that the final came a week after Scottish EDGE announced the launch of the ‘EDGE Pledge’, a pay-it-forward initiative from Scottish EDGE which allows previous winners the opportunity to support the next generation of entrepreneurs.

For me, the award show highlight came in the form of keynote speaker Steve Dunlop of Scottish Canals. While I’ll admit to initially being a little skeptical as to how interesting a talk on canals could be, I (like the majority of the auditorium) was blown away by the ingenuity shown by Steve and his team, rejuvenating forgotten waterway areas in Scotland through fascinating innovation. I’ll be looking at the Kelpies in a whole new light.

The applications for Round 11 open online on 31st July and I can’t wait to see the next batch of finalists take to the stage at #EDGE11, which I hope will include some of the brilliant finalists who missed out on a winning spot this time, because as Scottish EDGE CEO Evelyn McDonald explained, over 50% of EDGE winners to date were awarded funding on their second, third, or fourth attempt.

Craig Jackson
Director | ESS Start Up